Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/rss http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Friday Cat Blogging - 1 July 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/07/friday-cat-blogging-1-july-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Whenever we leave the house via the front door&mdash;usually to take a walk&mdash;the cats wait patiently for us. I don't know how long they'd wait for us before falling asleep, but longer than 20 minutes, anyway. This is what we always come back to: a pair of cats keeping watch out the window, waiting for our return. The only variation comes from Hilbert, who sometimes waits next to the front-door window, hoping he can make an escape when we open the door. He never seems to realize that staring out the window gives the game away.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2016_07_01.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 130px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 01 Jul 2016 18:56:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 308166 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's How To Do Free Trade Right http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/07/heres-how-do-free-trade-right <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jared Bernstein says that Donald Trump has a legitimate point about <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/7/1/12080974/trump-free-trade-proposal" target="_blank">the problems with American trade agreements:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The process by which they&rsquo;re negotiated is undemocratic, they uplift investor rights over sovereign rights, they reverse the order in which certain challenges should be tackled, and they fail to deal with currency issues. But globalization cannot nor should not be stopped. Done right, it delivers great benefits to advanced countries through the increased supply of goods, and it helps improve the living standards of workers in developing countries <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_panama_canal_ship.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">through profits made from trade with wealthier nations. Trump&rsquo;s tariffs would undermine all of that.</p> </blockquote> <p>Most liberals agree with this criticism. Until Trump, in fact, opposition to trade deals was mostly limited to liberals&mdash;and still is, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/donald-trump-starts-a-trade-war--with-the-republican-party/2016/06/30/25eec89a-3eda-11e6-84e8-1580c7db5275_story.html" target="_blank">judging by the number of Republicans who oppose Trump's trade agenda.</a> But as Bernstein says, international trade is basically a good thing. So what should we do to make it fairer? Tariffs and trade wars aren't the answer. Here are Bernstein's five recommendations:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Take action against those who suppress the value of their currencies relative to the dollar.</strong></p> <p><strong>Change the sequencing of labor and environmental rights.</strong> Any benefits to partners in terms of market access must be <em>preceded</em> by confirmation that labor and environmental rights are enforced. That means that countries we enter trade agreements with must offer sustained evidence that conditions on the ground have improved, and that we withdraw trade benefits when there&rsquo;s evidence of backsliding.</p> <p><strong>Relocate risk in investor disputes.</strong> The current Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process is set up in such a way that investors in countries that are signatories to trade deals can, through non-elected tribunals, override the sovereign laws of developing countries....The answer to this problem is to shift this risk away from the broader public and back to the investors themselves. The way to accomplish this is by taking ISDS out of future trade agreements and insisting that investors privately insure themselves against investment losses.</p> <p><strong>Take a public welfare stance toward patent and copyright protections.</strong> Trade agreements should not increase protectionism. They should not extend patents or limit the competition that reduces prices and increases access to needed medicines.</p> <p><strong>Sunlight disinfects trade agreements.</strong> The trade agreement process is uniquely secretive and exclusive &mdash; and as a result non-representative of the views of millions of people affected by the deal....This level of secrecy must end. We&rsquo;re not talking about nuclear codes but about the formulation of policies that will affect the everyday economic lives of every American. US-proposed text and then the texts of agreements after each negotiating round ought to be made publicly available.</p> </blockquote> <p>Personally, I think the second point is the most important. We talk endlessly about protecting labor in these agreements, but nothing much ever really happens. The only way it will is to insist that labor rights come first, before markets are opened up.</p> <p>Conversely, I've never been convinced that ISDS is quite the villain it's made out to be. I'm open to argument on this score, but trade agreements always need some kind of enforcement authority outside the nation states themselves, and ISDS is one of them. It's been around for a long time, and really doesn't seem to have done any harm to US interests.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 01 Jul 2016 18:44:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 308161 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Is Donald Trump Trying to Raise Money From Legislators in Iceland? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/07/why-donald-trump-trying-raise-money-legislators-iceland <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The latest weirdness from the Donald Trump campaign is its June fundraising efforts. Trump is apparently having trouble raising money from the usual Republican suspects, but wants to avoid the embarrassment of yet another FEC report showing that he has no money. So he's turning to small-dollar fundraising via email. This shouldn't have been a problem. Conservatives mastered this approach to raising money a long time ago, so all Trump had to do was hire<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="225" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/FnFyu_Hxxi8?start=0" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe> one of the many firms who have accumulated gigantic email lists and specialize in wringing donations out of ordinary citizens.</p> <p>But apparently he didn't do that. For the past few days, reports have come in of people overseas being spammed with Trump fundraising emails. And not just any foreigners: members of foreign parliaments. This is peculiar, to say the least. First, it's illegal. Foreigners aren't allowed to contribute to presidential campaigns. Second, it's easy to avoid. Just purge your email list of addresses ending in .uk, .dk, etc. Any experienced email shop would already have done this. So where did Trump's email list come from?</p> <p>Josh Marshall has been following this for several days, <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/welp-that-s-weird-but-of-course-it-is" target="_blank">and he has a theory:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>So Tim Watts is my new best friend in the Australian federal parliament. MP Tim Watts.<strong> Needless to say, we're pals now because he's getting bombarded by the Trump campaign asking for money to fight 'Crooked Hillary'</strong>....When I chatted with Tim last night (US Time) he said he'd gotten two more Trump emails in the last 7 hours hours. But when he showed me the emails, something pretty weird was immediately apparent.</p> <p><strong>They weren't actually just from Trump. One was from the Trump campaign. The other was from a pro-Trump Super Pac called Crippled America PAC.</strong></p> <p>Now, normally (i.e., completely separate from anything to do with Trump) it would be entirely unremarkable that someone was getting fundraising emails both from a campaign and also Super PACs supporting the campaign. They're likely both buying lists from the same vendor or even different vendors of likely Trump voters.</p> <p>But remember, Tim is a foreign citizen and part of the government in another country. We've already speculated about the various ways all these foreign legislators could have ended up on Trump's list. The more we've looked into it, it seems increasingly implausible that he got this list from a list vendor. Not impossible just not likely at all. <strong>It now seems more probable that the Trump Organization simply had these emails in some business related database and decided to dump them into the email hopper for the fundraising blitz</strong> or just found some site that had a zip file of foreign government officials and used that.</p> <p>....<strong>Given what I've said above, the existence of this list almost has to originate in Trump Derpland. A virtual certainty.</strong> So how did the same list end up in the hands of a Trump SuperPac? I looked up Crippled America PAC and as of their last filing just a couple weeks ago, they're total budget was $40. No <em>m</em> or <em>b</em> after that $ sign, forty bucks, the price of a fancy dinner. So obviously CAP was just stood up and actually started operating just now. And now they're showing up in Tim's inbox.</p> </blockquote> <p>Marshall believes that this is a pretty obvious sign of coordination between the Trump campaign and a Trump Super PAC, which is a big non-no. What's more, they didn't even bother trying to hide it. There are undoubtedly ways <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_email.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">they could have coordinated while still passing legal muster, but either they didn't have time for that or didn't know they weren't allowed to coordinate or just didn't care.</p> <p>Wherever the list came from, I guess it's a pretty lousy one: I've gotten several Trump fundraising emails too, and I'm pretty sure there's nothing in my background that suggests I'd be soft touch for a Trump donation. Conversely, I never received a Ben Carson email while he was busy with his campaign grift. Apparently he at least cared enough to hire a decent vendor.</p> <p>A sample from Monday is on the right. It comes from contact@victoryemails.com, whatever that is. I got another one from rnc@gopvictory.com, which I suppose originates from the Republican National Committee? All very strange.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 01 Jul 2016 18:08:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 308151 at http://www.motherjones.com FCC's Attempt to Kill Set-Top Boxes Looks Doomed to Failure http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/07/fccs-attempt-kill-set-top-boxes-looks-doomed-failure <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A few months ago the FCC&mdash;or its three Democratic commissioners, anyway&mdash;proposed doing away with set-top boxes. They're basically a rip-off, doing next to nothing in return for a monthly rental that lasts forever. The FCC's proposal was for cable companies to make all programming information available in a standard format, so anyone could use it. You could replace your cable company's box with Roku or Apple TV or an app or just buy a box from someone else.</p> <p>The cable companies all went ballistic, of course, and now the FCC is backing down in the face of an alternative proposal from the cable industry. The proposal itself <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cable_consumer_app.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">isn't too bad&mdash;it relies on "Consumer Apps" downloaded from the cable companies&mdash;but the question is whether the industry is serious about it. <a href="http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/06/30/fcc_starts_running_from_cable_box_killoff/" target="_blank">The <em>Register's</em>&nbsp;Kieren McCarthy is pretty skeptical:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The cable industry's first target will be to ensure nothing is agreed for six months until after the presidential elections in November. Tom Wheeler's term as FCC chair doesn't officially end until 2018 but traditionally, the FCC chair steps down when a new president comes into office.</p> <p>Adding to that, and helping to explain her sudden dislike of the cable box plan she voted in favor of, Jessica Rosenworcel's term officially ends this week&nbsp;&mdash; 30 June 2016. Even though she has been approved for a second term by President Obama, Congress is dragging out her confirmation in an effort to force Wheeler to resign early. If he resigns, Senate Republicans have said, they will confirm her. Wheeler so far is refusing to blink.</p> <p>If the Senate doesn't approve Rosenworcel by the end of the year&nbsp;&mdash; December 31, 2016&nbsp;&mdash; she has to leave the FCC: a casualty in partisan warfare fed by cable company dollars.</p> <p>With the FCC taking on the cable industry in so many other ways&nbsp;&mdash; net neutrality rules and data privacy rules being just two&nbsp;&mdash; it looks as though the regulator has bitten off more than it can chew with its cable box plan.</p> </blockquote> <p>It was a good idea while it lasted. Unfortunately, Republicans, as usual, are inexplicably opposed to any regulation that increases competition in the TV world. It's unclear why they so consistently take the side of a monopolistic industry hated by consumers, but there you have it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 01 Jul 2016 15:51:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 308126 at http://www.motherjones.com Saez: Income Inequality Up, But Bottom 99% Doing Fairly Well http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/07/saez-income-inequality-bottom-99-doing-fairly-well <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://equitablegrowth.org/research-analysis/u-s-top-one-percent-of-income-earners-hit-new-high-in-2015-amid-strong-economic-growth/" target="_blank">Good news from Emmanuel Saez:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The latest IRS data show that incomes for the bottom 99 percent of families grew by 3.9 percent over 2014 levels, the best annual growth rate since 1998....</p> </blockquote> <p>But you knew there had to be a but, right?</p> <blockquote> <p>....but incomes for those families in the top 1 percent of earners grew even faster, by 7.7 percent, over the same period.</p> </blockquote> <p>So income inequality continues to increase. Still, over the past two years, the non-super-rich have finally made some gains after seeing their incomes crater during the Great Recession. That's good news as far as it goes. The remaining question is whether this increase is mostly confined to the top 10-20 percent, or if workers in the bottom half of the income distribution also made gains. The chart below, which shows that hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers have increased about 3.2 percent over the past two years, suggests that the working class has done about as well as the overall bottom 99 percent. The gains of the past two years appear to be fairly widely spread.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_production_nonsupervisory_wages_2014_2016.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 70px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 01 Jul 2016 15:00:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 308121 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump's Beautiful Chinese Ties http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/donald-trumps-beautiful-chinese-ties <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Greg Sargent on <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/06/30/trumps-sales-pitch-to-workers-runs-into-a-wall-his-own-past/" target="_blank">Donald Trump's continuing appeal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One core assumption driving Donald Trump&rsquo;s presidential candidacy is this: Voters will see even the seamier details of Trump&rsquo;s business past as a positive, because even if he got rich by milking the corrupt system, Trump is now here to put his inside knowledge of the corrupt system<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Ov2S-mSzFyo?start=26" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe> to work on behalf of America &mdash; on your behalf. Trump has repeatedly said this himself in various forms.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, he may be a bastard, but he's our bastard. But Sargent wonders if he can survive stuff like the video excerpt on the right. "Where are the ties made?" David Letterman asks. From offstage comes the answer: "The ties are made in China." Trump doesn't even respond. He just smirks. Sargent: "This suggests once again that there is no reason to assume that the big debate over globalization and trade will necessarily play to Trump&rsquo;s advantage. Democrats will be able to point out that Trump repeatedly profited off of foreign labor in ways that he himself now claims sell out American workers."</p> <p>Could be! It's not clear at this point that Trump can do <em>anything</em> that his fans won't forgive, but maybe this will do it. For more details, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/us/politics/donald-trump-trade.html" target="_blank">the <em>New York Times</em> has you covered.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 30 Jun 2016 17:12:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 308061 at http://www.motherjones.com 2016 Features Different Candidates, But Looks Almost Identical to 2012 Anyway http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/2016-features-different-candidates-looks-almost-identical-2012-anyway <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump is a very unusual candidate who's likely to break some of our usual presidential voting patterns. Right? Sure, he'll get the angry white males that always vote Republican, but other groups might shy away from <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_abramowitz_group_voting_2012_2016.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Trump and vote for the Democratic ticket in larger numbers than usual.</p> <p>Not so fast, says Alan Abramowitz. If you compare current polls to the 2012 exit polls, it turns out that most demographic groups are <a href="http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/donald-trump-partisan-polarization-and-the-2016-presidential-election/" target="_blank">split almost precisely the same:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Trump&rsquo;s highly unusual background, personality, and unorthodox views on certain issues have led to considerable speculation that his nomination could upset normal voting patterns by producing high defection rates among some groups of Democratic and Republican identifiers and putting new states in play in November....[These claims] are probably mistaken. These data show that the American electorate remains deeply divided along party lines. Democrats and Republicans, including independents who leaned toward each party, differed sharply on economic, cultural, and racial issues. Moreover, Democrats and Republicans, including Sanders Democrats and non-Trump Republicans, held strongly negative feelings about the opposing party&rsquo;s likely nominee.</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess we'll see. I'd like to say that it depends on just what kind of moronic stuff Trump does over the next few months, but that really doesn't seem to matter much. Anyone still willing to vote for Trump after his antics so far this year is probably going to vote for him no matter what.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 30 Jun 2016 15:28:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 308056 at http://www.motherjones.com Thursday Morning News Roundup http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/thursday-morning-news-roundup <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's the news roundup for this morning:</p> <ul><li>BoJo has <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/30/boris-johnson-rules-himself-out-of-tory-leadership-race-brexit-eu-referendum" target="_blank">taken himself out of the race</a> to be Britain's next prime minister. I guess he didn't feel like trying to clean up the mess he made by winning the Brexit vote.</li> <li>Donald Trump apparently had a <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/aramroston/sources-donald-trump-listened-in-on-phone-lines-at-mar-a-lag" target="_blank">special console</a> in his bedroom at Mar-a-Lago so he could listen in on staff phone calls.</li> <li>Bill Clinton <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/bill-clinton-loretta-lynch-224972" target="_blank">met privately</a> with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in Phoenix. It was just a social call, they said, but everyone agrees the optics are pretty terrible.</li> </ul><p>And that's just the past few hours....</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 30 Jun 2016 15:09:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 308051 at http://www.motherjones.com Weekly Flint Water Report: June 17-23 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/weekly-flint-water-report-june-17-23 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here is this week's Flint water report. As usual, I've eliminated outlier readings above 2,000 parts per billion, since there are very few of them and they can affect the averages in misleading ways. During the week, DEQ took 258 samples. The average for the past week was 12.13.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_water_2016_06_23.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 10px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 30 Jun 2016 14:34:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 308046 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump vs. the World http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/donald-trump-vs-world <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.pewglobal.org/2016/06/29/as-obama-years-draw-to-close-president-and-u-s-seen-favorably-in-europe-and-asia/" target="_blank">Via Pew Research,</a> here's what the world thinks of Donald Trump:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_do_right_thing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 90px;"></p> <p>Trump does poorly pretty much everywhere. His top ratings come from China, where authoritarian bullies are taken for granted, and Italy, which probably figures Trump looks positively presidential compared to Silvio Berlusconi. Question: Is this good or bad for Trump? Is it bad because he'll have a hard time getting things done if everyone hates him? Or good because this just proves that everyone knows he'll put America first?</p> <p>On a related note, the Greeks really dislike the United States on a whole range of issues. What's the deal with this? What have we done to Greece lately?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 30 Jun 2016 00:52:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 308036 at http://www.motherjones.com Before Trump University, There Was the Trump Institute. Here's How Donald Trump Learned the Hustle. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/bnefore-turmp-university <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A couple of months ago <em>Ars Technica</em> ran a story about one of Donald Trump's penny-ante moneymakers from the aughts: the Trump Institute. It all started when a pair of journalism grad students, Joe Mullin and Jonathan Kaminsky, became <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_wealth_builders.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">fixated on a <a href="http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/04/we-witnessed-the-birth-of-trump-university/" target="_blank">late-night infomercial for the National Grant Conferences:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Why did the NGC infomercial captivate us?...It wasn&rsquo;t the enthusiastic couple who founded NGC, <strong>Mike and Irene Milin,</strong> proclaiming that numerous government grants were there for the taking. No, we couldn't stop watching because NGC just felt so <em>sleazy</em>.</p> <p>....Intrigued, we spent the better part of a year researching NGC, its claims, and its founders&rsquo; pasts. We ultimately found that NGC&mdash;with several seminar teams circling the country and clearing tens of millions of dollars each year in sales&mdash;<strong>and its memberships produced no money for any of the customers we interviewed.</strong></p> <p>....Trump wanted a piece of the action, so he struck a licensing deal with the Milins in 2006. The couple created the &ldquo;Trump Institute,&rdquo; using much of the same pitch material and some of the same pitchmen.</p> </blockquote> <p>Today the <em>New York Times</em> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/30/us/politics/donald-trump-institute-plagiarism.html" target="_blank">picks up on the story:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As with Trump University, <strong>the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump</strong>. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial &mdash; one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge. &ldquo;I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar,&rdquo; he said in the 2005 video, adding, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m teaching what I&rsquo;ve learned.&rdquo;</p> <p>Reality fell far short. In fact...extensive portions of the materials that students received after forking over their seminar fees, supposedly containing Mr. Trump&rsquo;s special wisdom, <strong>had been plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier.</strong></p> <p>Together, the exaggerated claims about his own role, the checkered pasts of the people with whom he went into business and the theft of intellectual property at the venture&rsquo;s heart all illustrate the fiction underpinning so many of Mr. Trump&rsquo;s licensing businesses: Putting his name on products and services &mdash; and collecting fees &mdash; was often where his actual involvement began and ended.</p> <p>....Asked about the plagiarism, which was discovered by the Democratic &ldquo;super PAC&rdquo; American Bridge, the editor of the Trump Institute publication, Susan G. Parker, denied responsibility....<strong>Ms. Parker, a lawyer and legal writer in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., said that far from being handpicked by Mr. Trump, she had been hired to write the book after responding to a Craigslist ad.</strong> She said she never spoke to Mr. Trump, let alone received guidance from him on what to write. She said she drew on her own knowledge of real estate and a speed-reading of Mr. Trump&rsquo;s books.</p> </blockquote> <p>In a nutshell, Trump sought out a couple of late-night hustlers who had already been in trouble with the law, taped an infomercial for them, and then pocketed the licensing fee. (They were the "best in the business," said the Trump executive who brokered the deal.) Later, having learned the hustle, Trump ended his contract with the Milins and opened up Trump University. He had learned all he needed and was ready to start pushing the hard-sell conference business on his own. Seven years later, he's perfected the hustle even further, so now he's running for president. You're welcome.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Jun 2016 18:40:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 308011 at http://www.motherjones.com GE Capital Shrinks to Avoid the Cost of Being "Systemically Important" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/ge-capital-shrinks-avoid-cost-being-systemically-important <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>GE has been working on this for a while, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/ge-capital-sheds-systemically-important-label-for-too-big-to-fail-firms-1467205963" target="_blank">and today they got their wish:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The U.S. Financial Stability Oversight Council said Wednesday that it voted this week to <strong>remove its label on GE Capital as &ldquo;systemically important financial institution,&rdquo;</strong> which carries more stringent oversight. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who chairs the council, said the change shows that designation is a &ldquo;two-way process&rdquo;&mdash;a rebuttal to critics who have said its process for branding &ldquo;systemic&rdquo; firms is opaque and doesn&rsquo;t give firms a clear road map on how to reduce risk.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is good news:</p> <blockquote> <p>GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said changed market conditions and new regulations had caused GE Capital&rsquo;s returns to fall below its cost of capital....Since deciding to wind down the finance arm, <strong>GE Capital has signed agreements for the sale of about $180 billion of businesses</strong> and has closed about $156 billion of those transactions.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, new regulations made it more expensive to do business as a huge financial services firm, so they decided to shrink. This is exactly the way it should be. Higher capital requirements and other rules give financial firms a choice: either accept the more stringent rules as a way of making themselves safer, or else shrink enough that they don't pose a systemic danger in the first place.</p> <p>Most banks are paying the higher costs, and that's fine. As long as the additional capital requirements are sufficient, they're now safer and less likely to collapse during a financial crisis. GE Capital chose the other route, and that's fine too. So far, this is all working out pretty well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Jun 2016 17:47:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 308006 at http://www.motherjones.com NAFTA and China Aren't Responsible for Our Steel Woes http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/nafta-and-china-arent-responsible-our-steel-woes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump stood in front of a pile of scrap metal yesterday in Pittsburgh and blasted both NAFTA and the accession of China into the World Trade Organization. He was positively poetic about <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/full-transcript-trump-job-plan-speech-224891" target="_blank">how his trade policies would affect the steel industry:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A Trump Administration will also ensure that we start using American steel for American infrastructure.</p> <p>Just like the American steel from Pennsylvania that built the Empire State building.</p> <p>It will be American steel that will fortify America's crumbling bridges.</p> <p>It will be American steel that sends our skyscrapers soaring into the sky.</p> <p>It will be American steel that rebuilds our inner cities.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's no question that the American steel industry has suffered over the past three decades, thanks to cheap steel imports from other countries. But this began in the 1980s and had almost nothing to do with either NAFTA or China. <a href="http://www.worldsteel.org/statistics/statistics-archive/steel-archive.html" target="_blank">Take a look:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_us_steel_production_1984_2014.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 20px;"></p> <p>Do you see a sudden slump in US steel production after NAFTA passed? Or after China entered the WTO? Nope. Other countries simply produced steel more cheaply than we did. It started with Japan and South Korea in the '80s and later migrated to other countries not because of trade agreements, but because Japan and South Korea got too expensive. And it's not as if no one noticed this was happening. Ronald Reagan tried tariffs on steel and they didn't work. George H.W. Bush tried tariffs again. They didn't work. George W. Bush tried tariffs a third time. No dice.</p> <p>For all his bluster, when it came time for Trump to lay out his plan to "bring back our jobs," it was surprisingly lame. It was seven points long but basically amounted to withdrawing from the TPP and getting tough on trade cheaters. This would accomplish next to nothing. TPP's effect is small to begin with, and we're already pretty aggressive about going after trade violations.</p> <p>The bottom line is simple: If we want access to markets overseas, we have to give them access to our markets. Donald Trump can claim he wants to bring back the jobs we've lost to overseas competition, but he'd have to back that up by essentially promising to withdraw completely from NAFTA and the WTO&mdash;and then promising to build a huge tariff wall around the entire country. He's not willing to do that because even he knows it would trash the US economy. So instead he blusters and proposes a toothless plan. Sad.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Jun 2016 16:38:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 308001 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Hillary Outspent Trump $26 Million to Zero in June http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/chart-day-hillary-outspent-trump-26-million-zero-june <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_swing_state_ads.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">NBC News reports that <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/team-clinton-spent-26m-battleground-ads-june-trump-spent-0-n600611" target="_blank">Donald Trump spent $0 on ads in swing states in June:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Hillary Clinton and her allies continue to dominate the presidential battleground-state airwaves, outspending Donald Trump and pro-Trump groups this month, $26 million to $0, according to ad-spending data from SMG Delta.</p> <p>For the week, it's $7.5 million to $0 in the eight battlegrounds of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia. And when you add future ad reservations, it's $140 million to $0.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not sure what to think of this. Is it comforting because it shows just how incompetent the Trump campaign is? Or is it scary because Trump is still only a few points behind even though he's doing no conventional campaigning at all?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Jun 2016 15:04:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 307991 at http://www.motherjones.com Even With a Teleprompter, Donald Trump Is Full of Shit http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/even-teleprompter-donald-trump-full-shit <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Professor Trump delivered a lecture on the evils of international trade today. <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/full-transcript-trump-job-plan-speech-224891" target="_blank">Here's a snippet:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Massive trade deficits subtract directly from our Gross Domestic Product. From 1947 to 2001&nbsp;&mdash; a span of over five decades&nbsp;&mdash; our inflation-adjusted gross domestic product grew at a rate of 3.5%. However, since 2002&nbsp;&mdash; the year after we fully opened our markets to Chinese imports&nbsp;&mdash; that GDP growth rate has been cut almost in half.</p> <p>What does this mean for Americans? For every one percent of GDP growth we fail to generate in any given year, we also fail to create over one million jobs. <strong>America's "job creation deficit" due to slower growth since 2002 is well over 20 million jobs&nbsp;&mdash; and that's just about the number of jobs our country needs right now to put America back to work at decent wages.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>There are two interesting things about this. First, Trump was reading off a teleprompter, and you can tell. The <em>real</em> Donald Trump would have ranted about the real unemployment rate being 40 percent and 50 million people being out of work or something. Who knows? But the carefully handled Donald Trump produces a well-modulated stream of numbers that actually sounds plausible.</p> <p>And yet&mdash;even with someone else carefully vetting the numbers, they still don't come close to making sense. Consider: the U6 unemployment rate right now is 9.7 percent. This represents every single human being in the country who wants a job but can't get one, or who wants a full-time job but can only get part-time work. Even if they're discouraged and not currently looking for work, they're counted.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_u6_postwar_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p>The U6 series only goes back to 1994, but a good guess is that the lowest it's been in all of postwar history is about 6.5 percent. We'd hit that mark if 5 million more people were working. If you do the calculation based on the current output gap instead of the U6 rate, you come up with roughly the same number.</p> <p>In other words, 5 million is the absolute max, even in theory. If that many more people had jobs, the economy would be roaring along at a 1960s boom level. So where does 20 million come from? If it were just Trump blathering away, the question wouldn't be worth asking. But this supposedly came from someone who actually thought about these numbers. And they're still off by a factor of at least four. I sure hope Trump doesn't run his business with financial estimates like this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Jun 2016 00:51:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 307976 at http://www.motherjones.com A Closer Look Behind the "Obamacare Surprise" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/closer-look-behind-obamacare-surprise <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Helaine Olen writes in Slate that Democrats might be in for a <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/06/28/will_obamacare_hikes_affect_our_election_like_nhs_affected_brexit.html" target="_blank">nasty surprise just before the election:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A few weeks ago <em>Politico</em> warned of &ldquo;Obamacare&rsquo;s November surprise&rdquo;:</strong> Many consumers enrolling in the health care marketplace on Nov. 1, just one week before the election, can expect increased rates.</p> <p>Given the current disparity in the polls, it&rsquo;s unlikely that alone could change the outcome of the election. But it is quite possible it will cause a bit of turmoil in the last week of the campaign. It&rsquo;s beginning to look likely than many shoppers aren&rsquo;t going to like what they find.</p> <p>A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation released earlier this month estimated that the <strong>average weighted premium increase for the benchmark second lowest cost silver plan will come in at 10 percent.</strong> Last year? It was 5 percent.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is quite possible. As the Obamacare market shakes out and insurers get a better handle on their actual costs, premiums were always bound to go up. But it's worth pointing out what's really happening here: insurers lowballed their premiums at first in order to win market share, coming in at rates far below the CBO's initial estimates. So even if we do see a 10 percent increase in 2017, premiums will still be well under CBO's initial projections<sup>1</sup>:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbo_obamacare_premium_forecast_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>I'm under no illusion that this will change the politics of a premium increase, of course. Someone, somewhere, will have a 30 percent increase, and that's undoubtedly what Donald Trump will blather on about. Nonetheless, it's nice to at least be prepared with the truth. And the truth is that even if there's a sizeable increase next year, premiums will still be about 15 percent <em>less</em> than CBO projected back when Obamacare was first passed.</p> <hr align="left" width="30%"><p><sup>1</sup>It was surprisingly hard to collect these numbers. You'd think CBO would have them all collected in one place somewhere, but if they do, I couldn't find them. If anyone can point me to something better, let me know. In the meantime, here are my sources:</p> <p>Projections:</p> <ul><li>2014: <a href="https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/76701/ib_premiums_update.pdf" target="_blank">https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/76701/ib_premiums_update.pdf</a>, p.6.</li> <li>2015: Interpolation of 2014 and 2016 numbers.</li> <li>2016:&nbsp;<a href="http://cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/107xx/doc10781/11-30-premiums.pdf" target="_blank">http://cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/107xx/doc10781/11-30-premiums.pdf</a>, p. 7.</li> <li>2017: Projection based on CBO projection of 8 percent increases between 2016-18. <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/reports/51130-Health_Insurance_Premiums_OneCol.pdf" target="_blank">https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/reports/51130-Health_Insurance_Premiums_OneCol.pdf</a>, p. 12.</li> </ul><p>Actual:</p> <ul><li>2014: <a href="http://cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/45231-ACA_Estimates.pdf" target="_blank">http://cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/45231-ACA_Estimates.pdf</a>, p. 6.</li> <li>2015: <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/reports/49892/49892-breakout-AppendixB.pdf" target="_blank">https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/reports/49892/49892-breakout-AppendixB.pdf</a>, p. 120.</li> <li>2016: <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/reports/51130-Health_Insurance_Premiums_OneCol.pdf" target="_blank">https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/reports/51130-Health_Insurance_Premiums_OneCol.pdf</a>, p. 12.</li> <li>2017: Estimate based on 10 percent increase from 2016.</li> </ul></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Jun 2016 22:22:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 307961 at http://www.motherjones.com Labor Leader Jeremy Corbyn Loses Confidence Vote in a Landslide http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/labor-leader-jeremy-corbyn-loses-confidence-vote-landslide <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_jeremy_corbyn.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Brexit has already claimed the leadership of one of Britain's major parties, and now it's claimed another: Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labor Party, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2016/jun/28/brexit-live-cameron-eu-leaders-brussels-corbyn-confidence?page=with:block-57729813e4b0cea1d7b04bea#block-57729813e4b0cea1d7b04bea" target="_blank">overwhelmingly lost a vote of confidence this afternoon, 172-40.</a> Of course, Corbyn never really had the confidence of his party in the first place, so I suppose this is no surprise. This now officially puts the party regulars in massive conflict with actual Labor voters, who appear to still support Corbyn. In other words, Corbyn is now sort of a lefty British version of Donald Trump.</p> <p>In other Brexit news, German chancellor Angela Merkel is changing her tune. At first she was the voice of calm among European leaders, but now she's decided <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/29/world/europe/brexit.html" target="_blank">the Brexiteers are delusional and need to be told so:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Ms. Merkel reiterated that there could be no talks with Britain on leaving the European Union until Britain starts formal procedures to leave....&ldquo;The talks can begin only then, and not before &mdash; either formally or informally,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>She made clear that <strong>Britain could not expect full access to the European Union&rsquo;s common market without accepting its conditions, including the free movement of people.</strong> Immigration was the crux of the often ugly debate that accompanied the so-called Brexit campaign.</p> <p>&ldquo;There must be and will be a noticeable difference between whether a country wants to be a member of the European Union family or not,&rdquo; Ms. Merkel said.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's no telling how serious everyone is about this position, but it's bad news for Boris Johnson and the other leaders of the Leave contingent. And that's not all. In addition to fessing up to the lies they told about how much money Brexit would free up, they're also <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/29/world/europe/boris-johnson-brexit-leaders-eu.html" target="_blank">walking back their tough talk on migrants:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>On immigration, too, there was immediate backtracking from Mr. Johnson and Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Parliament from the Conservative Party, who told the BBC, <strong>&ldquo;Frankly, if people watching think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the E.U., they are going to be disappointed.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>....&ldquo;There is a clear tension between what the voter wanted and what senior euroskeptic leaders want to produce,&rdquo; said Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent. &ldquo;If they don&rsquo;t deliver radical reforms on immigration, it would be the equivalent of pouring gasoline on the populist UKIP fire that has been burning since 2010.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>In the meantime, the pound is still down, Britain's credit rating has been cut, and Scotland is making noises about being able to veto the whole deal. Can they do that? No one really knows, but if party leaders start casting around for an excuse to nullify the referendum vote, it might do.</p> <p>On the bright side, financial markets seem to steadying up a bit. That's no surprise. I suspect that after the initial shock has worn off, everyone is going to realize that Brexit does not, in fact, represent a massive shock to the global economy. It probably won't even represent a massive shock to the European economy. In the long run, the only economy it will hurt significantly will be Britain's.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Jun 2016 16:07:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 307891 at http://www.motherjones.com Benghazi Committee Finally Wraps Up and...Concludes Nothing New http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/benghazi-committee-finally-wraps-andconcludes-nothing-new <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sad_elephant_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The GOP elephant labored mightily for over two years, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/29/us/politics/hillary-clinton-benghazi.html" target="_blank">and today delivered a mouse:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, <strong>finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.</strong></p> <p>The 800-page report, however, included some new details about the night of the attacks, and the context in which it occurred, and it delivered a broad rebuke of government agencies like the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department &mdash; and the officials who led them &mdash; for failing to grasp the acute security risks in the Libyan city, and especially for maintaining outposts in Benghazi that they could not protect.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, nothing. Previous reports have already criticized the security in Benghazi, including the State Department's own investigation, which was concluded nearly four years ago.</p> <p>Still, the investigation accidentally uncovered the fact that Hillary Clinton used a private email server while she was Secretary of State, so I suppose it was mission accomplished after all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Jun 2016 14:58:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 307881 at http://www.motherjones.com Shane Bauer's Four Months As a Private Prison Guard http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/shane-bauers-four-months-private-prison-guard <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>What is life like in a medium-security private prison? MoJo's Shane Bauer applied for a job at the Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana to find out. Winn is run by the Corrections Corporation of America, which earned over $150 million running 61 prisons across the country last year. Why is running prisons so profitable? After four months working at Winn, Bauer reports that one reason is simple: the pay for guards is abysmally low and <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shane_bauer.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the facility was chronically understaffed. This certainly helped CCA's bottom line, but it also produced persistent violence that <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/cca-private-prisons-corrections-corporation-inmates-investigation-bauer" target="_blank">the tiny staff was barely able to control:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>On my fifth week on the job, I'm asked to train a new cadet...."It's pretty bad in here," I tell him. "People get stabbed here all the time." At least seven inmates have been stabbed in the last six weeks....Three days later, I see two inmates stab each other in Ash. A week after that, another inmate is stabbed and beaten by multiple people in Elm. People say he was cut more than 40 times.</p> <p>....If I were not working at Winn and were reporting on the prison through more traditional means, I would never know how violent it is. While I work here, I keep track of every stabbing that I see or hear about from supervisors or eyewitnesses. During the first two months of 2015, at least 12 people are shanked. The company is required to report all serious assaults to the DOC. But DOC records show that for the first 10 months of 2015, CCA reported only five stabbings. (CCA says it reports all assaults and that the DOC may have classified incidents differently.)</p> <p>Reported or not, by my seventh week as a guard the violence is getting out of control. The stabbings start to happen so frequently that, on February 16, the prison goes on indefinite lockdown. No inmates leave their tiers. The walk is empty. Crows gather and puddles of water form on the rec yards. More men in black are sent in by corporate. They march around the prison in military formation. Some wear face masks.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a long piece, and it's not easy to summarize. Its power comes from the relentless, detailed buildup of Bauer's record of daily life at Winn. Do yourself a favor and put aside some time to read it.</p> <p>And if you also want to watch the video version, we have that too: <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/cca-winn-prison-guard-shane-bauer-video-one" target="_blank">Part 1</a>, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/cca-winn-prison-guard-shane-bauer-video-two" target="_blank">Part 2</a>, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/cca-winn-prison-guard-shane-bauer-video-three" target="_blank">Part 3</a>, and Parts 4-6 to come later in the week.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Jun 2016 04:17:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 307861 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton Continues to Not Be a Shady Character http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/hillary-clinton-continues-not-be-shady-character <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Reporters sure are desperate to demonstrate some kind of shadiness on Hillary Clinton's part. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-benghazi-democrats-20160627-snap-story.html" target="_blank">Here's a headline in the <em>LA Times</em> today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>House Democrats mistakenly release transcript confirming big payout to Clinton friend Sidney Blumenthal</p> </blockquote> <p>Sounds shady! I clicked immediately, wanting to know <em>who</em> gave Blumenthal a big payout. The answer, it turns out, is Media Matters, for which he works. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_warren_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">This is in no way shady and in no way connected to Hillary Clinton anyway. And here's an <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/858997d5d9a540688d316654a5bb0c15/clintons-state-dept-calendar-missing-scores-entries" target="_blank">AP headline from this weekend:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Clinton's State Dept. calendar missing scores of entries</p> </blockquote> <p>This also sound shady! But no. It turns out that on Hillary Clinton's official State Department schedule, she sometimes had private meetings and didn't list the participants. "No known federal laws were violated," the article says.</p> <p>Sheesh. Is this the best they can do? I know that we're all desperate for balance given the tsunami of lies and sleaze coming from the Trump campaign, but surely there's <em>something</em> a little more concrete we can lay at Hillary's feet? This is lame.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 22:39:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 307846 at http://www.motherjones.com Three Quotes of the Day About Donald Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/three-quotes-day-about-donald-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's what people said about Donald Trump on the Sunday chat shows yesterday. Keep in mind that these quotes are all from Trump's <em>supporters</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong><a href="http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2016/06/26/state-of-the-union-political-panel---full-part-1.cnn" target="_blank">Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer</a></strong> on Trump's repeated statement that Judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased against him because of his Mexican heritage: "I don't believe that Donald Trump meant it in the manner that he said it."</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/437172/donald-trump-newt-gringrich-preparing-be-vp-pick" target="_blank">Newt Gingrich</a></strong> on Trump's constant backtracking: "I think he stands for an evolving process of trying to come to grips with really big problems."</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/26/politics/mitch-mcconnell-donald-trump-qualified/" target="_blank">Sen. Mitch McConnell</a></strong> on whether Trump is qualified to be president: "I'll leave that to the American people to decide."</p> </blockquote> <p>And as long as we're on the subject of Trump, be sure to check out Michael Finnegan's piece in the <em>LA Times</em> about <a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-baja-snap-story.html" target="_blank">Trump's failed condo development in Baja California:</a> "Most of the Trump Baja condo buyers accused Trump and two of his adult children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., of duping them into believing that Trump was one of the developers, giving them confidence that it was safe to buy unbuilt property in Mexico." It's yet more of the usual Trump sleaze.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 21:46:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 307831 at http://www.motherjones.com Supreme Court: Texas Law Plainly Provided No Bona Fide Health Benefits http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/supreme-court-texas-law-plainly-provided-no-bona-fide-health-benefits <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today's abortion decision is good news for supporters of reproductive rights, but it didn't provide much guidance about what it means for a law to place an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions. The majority opinion ruled that Texas's law failed the test laid out in <em>Casey</em>, which balances the burden a law places on women seeking abortions with the benefit the law confers. The problem is that HB2 so plainly provided no benefit that it wasn't really a hard call. Here is Justice Breyer on the requirement that doctors performing abortions <a href="http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/15-274_p8k0.pdf" target="_blank">have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, <strong>Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.</strong></p> <p>....That brief describes the undisputed general fact that <strong>&ldquo;hospitals often condition admitting privileges on reaching a certain number of admissions per year.&rdquo;</strong>...The president of Nova Health Systems...pointed out that it would be difficult for doctors regularly performing abortions at the El Paso clinic to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals because &ldquo;[d]uring the past 10 years, over 17,000 abortion procedures were performed at the El Paso clinic [and n]ot a single one of those patients had to be transferred to a hospital for emergency treatment, much less admitted to the hospital.&rdquo; In a word, <strong>doctors would be unable to maintain admitting privileges or obtain those privileges for the future, because the fact that abortions are so safe meant that providers were unlikely to have any patients to admit.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>And here he is on the requirement that abortion providers meet the requirements for surgical centers:</p> <blockquote> <p>The record makes clear that the <strong>surgical-center requirement provides no benefit</strong> when complications arise in the context of an abortion produced through medication. That is because, in such a case, <strong>complications would almost always arise only after the patient has left the facility.</strong></p> <p>Nationwide, childbirth is 14 times more likely than abortion to result in death, but Texas law allows a midwife to oversee childbirth in the patient&rsquo;s own home. Colonoscopy, a procedure that typically takes place outside a hospital (or surgical center) setting, has a mortality rate 10 times higher than an abortion.</p> </blockquote> <p>The majority opinion relied primarily on reams of real-world evidence that made it crystal clear that HB2 provided no bona fide safety benefits. Unfortunately, that means that no real discussion of "undue burden" was required, so it's not clear what effect this case will have as precedent. We'll have to wait and see what lower courts do with it and how the anti-abortion forces rewrite their laws in order to get another crack at a different ruling.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 18:47:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 307801 at http://www.motherjones.com Britain Is a Total Mess Right Now http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/britain-total-mess-right-now <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The day before the Brexit vote, Nick Clegg, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, wrote a piece titled <a href="https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/will-wake-vote-leave/" target="_blank">"What you will wake up to if we vote to Leave..."</a> It's astonishingly prescient and worth a read. Apparently not very many people believed him, though.</p> <p>But he was totally right, and no one knows what the hell is going on anymore. The process of leaving the EU officially starts when Britain invokes Article 50 of the EU charter, but oddly enough, no one seems to be especially eager to do <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boris_johnson_car.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">that. David Cameron, the caretaker prime minister, has announced that he doesn't plan to do this anytime soon, and Boris Johnson, the leader of the Brexit forces, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/28/world/europe/boris-johnson-brexit.html" target="_blank">seems to be OK with that:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Johnson offered no details about when or how Britain should invoke Article 50 &mdash; the formal process for leaving the European Union &mdash; nor did he lay out a plan for how Britain could maintain free trade with the European Union, the world&rsquo;s largest common market, without accepting the bloc&rsquo;s demand for the unrestricted movement of workers.</p> </blockquote> <p>Meanwhile, the pound continues to fall and the financial community <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/european-markets-remain-pressured-by-brexit-1467013530" target="_blank">continues to panic.</a> Tomorrow the Labor Party will hold a vote of confidence on its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, which he's expected to lose by a landslide. Scotland is threatening to secede yet again. And the EU is saying that if Britain wants to retain access to the common market, then they have to <a href="http://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/news/post-brexit-britain-must-accept-eu-courts-freedom-of-movement-rules-to-access-single-market-warn-diplomats/" target="_blank">accept free immigration too:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If it wants access to the bloc&rsquo;s single market, post-Brexit Britain must accept EU freedom of movement rules and the supremacy of the European Court of Justice, EU diplomats have warned ahead of a vital summit. <strong>The idea that Britain could have access under a European Economic Area style deal and impose border controls was a non-starter, diplomats said.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well, who knows? Maybe that's just their opening negotiating position. But the Brexiteers are in for some serious trouble if it turns out that the price of access to the European market is the very thing that prompted their victory in the first place.</p> <p>What a mess. And all for nothing.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 17:33:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 307786 at http://www.motherjones.com OECD Report: Pure Math > Applied Math http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/oecd-report-pure-math-applied-math <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at the <em>Washington Monthly</em>, Jill Barshay reports on the latest study <a href="http://washingtonmonthly.com/2016/06/27/is-it-better-to-teach-pure-math-instead-of-applied-math/" target="_blank">comparing math instruction between nations:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Researchers looked at math instruction in 64 countries and regions around the world, and found that <strong>the difference between the math scores of 15-year-old students who were the most exposed to pure math tasks and those who were least exposed was the equivalent of almost two years of education.</strong> The research was based on how students answered survey questions that accompanied an international test, called the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA.</p> <p>The result was surprising for two reasons. First, the PISA exam itself is largely a test of applied math, not equation-solving....<strong>It&rsquo;s also surprising because many veteran educators recommend using real-world applications of abstract math concepts as a motivational tool.</strong> And the OECD doesn&rsquo;t disagree. But real-world examples aren&rsquo;t enough. Students still need to learn the broad concepts and the mathematical notation. In South Korea, for example, students get a big dose of both applied and pure math instruction and they score among the top 10 in the world.</p> </blockquote> <p>I browsed through the <a href="http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/equations-and-inequalities_9789264258495-en" target="_blank">report</a> myself, and unless I missed something I can't say that these results surprise me even slightly. As the report notes, kids are tracked into different kinds of math instruction in most schools, and the brighter kids are therefore exposed to more advanced math than the others. That's both normal and necessary, and the only real question is whether it's done properly. If poor kids are tracked into less advanced classes at unfairly high levels, then we have a problem. Here's what the report says about that:</p> <blockquote> <p>Across the OECD countries, socio-economic differences among students and schools account for around 9%&nbsp;&mdash; and some countries, as much as 20%&nbsp;&mdash; of the variation in familiarity with mathematics concepts.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's surprising all right, but mainly because 9 percent is a pretty low number. I would have guessed higher. What we're primarily left with here is that some kids are better at math than others; those who are good at math take more advanced classes; and more advanced classes expose them to more abstract concepts. So where's the surprise?</p> <p>As for the ability to solve real-world problems, there's no surprise there either. I doubt the difference is due to the kinds of math the kids are exposed to. It's due to the fact that some kids are better at math than others in the first place and have taken more advanced classes. The PISA exam may be a test of applied math, but obviously you have to know the underlying pure math too.</p> <p>Finally, one related note: I've always wondered about the use of using real-world problems as a "motivational tool." The problem is that once you get past the level of basic arithmetic, real-world problems tend to be pretty artificial. There just aren't very many real-world applications of high school algebra or geometry, and I've often wondered if story problems only make that more obvious. In introductory algebra, for example, you often get problems about trains meeting or how much of a head start someone on foot needs to get somewhere before a car would. Those are so obviously non-useful, though, that they also seem non-motivational. If this is all you can do with algebra, why bother?</p> <p>I don't think there's a good answer to this. Real life just doesn't require much in the way of algebra or geometry for most people. But I guess you have to try.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pisa_familiarity_with_mathematics.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 16:59:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 307781 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren Just Joined Up to Tear Donald Trump Apart http://www.motherjones.com/contributor/2016/06/hillary-clinton-and-elizabeth-warren-just-joined-tear-donald-trump-apart-it-was- <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren took a little trip to Ohio today to see the sights, do some antiquing, and eviscerate Donald Trump.</p> <p>Here's the distinguished senator from Massachusetts up first:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="354" scrolling="no" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fdrumblog%2Fvideos%2F1339772056052543%2F&amp;show_text=0&amp;width=630" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="639"></iframe></p> <p>And now, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="354" scrolling="no" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fbusiness.facebook.com%2Fdrumblog%2Fvideos%2Fvb.416261761736915%2F1339791796050569%2F%3Ftype%3D3&amp;show_text=0&amp;width=630" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>They have a pretty good buddy cop situation going on here. Maybe Clinton will make her VP after all?</p></body></html> Contributor Video 2016 Elections Donald Trump Hillary Clinton elizabeth warren Mon, 27 Jun 2016 16:30:34 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 307776 at http://www.motherjones.com